“If you are not making someone else’s life better, then you’re wasting your time. Your life will become better, by making other lives better.” – Will Smith
Genuine happiness is a childlike state of pure fulfillment, gratitude, and serenity. It’s a deep feeling of fulfillment, peace, gratitude for the present moment, and appreciation of your role in the universe.
That childlike feeling of pure fulfillment, gratitude, and serenity is a natural state of mind that we come into the world with. It is not a feeling that money can buy.
Earning more material wealth is not the most effective way to feel happier. Giving is much stronger approach for feeling more fulfillment. Believe it or not, giving away your money is a better approach to adding more happiness to your life than earning more.
The following are three reasons why:
Reason One: Money Doesn’t Buy Happiness
For more than fifty years, levels of material wealth in the United States have been climbing higher, higher, and higher. If money buys happiness, then you would think that all of that prosperity would correlate to more happiness across the country.
On the contrary, Positive Psychology books like Learned Pessimism and Flourish by Martin E.P. Seligman, Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, and The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor point out that genuine happiness is becoming less and less common. And levels of depression, anxiety, and stress across the country—and in many other countries around the world—are on the rise.
Levels of wealth in the United States have been climbing higher and higher for decades. But we haven’t gotten any happier. Because money doesn’t buy happiness.
A great example of this essential truth is the situation that many of the world’s richest celebrities find themselves in when they hit their peak of wealth, fame, power, and success. They earn more material wealth than many of us could ever dream of only to find out that they still aren’t genuinely happy. When having access to everything that money can buy can’t offer them true happiness, they resort to drugs and alcohol to get it. They tumble into a downward spiral of addiction and negative spotlight from the media. And they become living examples of the fact that money doesn’t buy happiness.
Most of us believe the key to happiness is earning more money because we are locked into a way of thinking called the Rat Race Mentality. We think of life as an endless Rat Race. We believe that true happiness is always on the other side of some kind of milestone, accomplishment, or success that we haven’t achieved yet. We drag ourselves through years of schoolwork and careers that we don’t love or enjoy assuming that we’ll be happy when the next paycheck, the next promotion, the next job, the next accomplishment, the next house, the next car, the next relationship, the next group of friends, or the next milestone comes along.
And each time the world rewards us with another paycheck or pay-raise, we feel a momentary rush that we mistake for true happiness. But that temporary rush that we feel when we earn more money isn’t real, authentic, or genuine happiness. And it doesn’t last.
Because earning money can’t offer you lasting genuine happiness.
But giving can.
Reason 2: Giving Is A Research-proven Happiness Booster
Giving is the gateway to true fulfillment. The world has long regarded contribution and acts of kindness as powerful remedies for happiness. Giving is a research-proven solution for boosting your happiness.
In his recent book Flourish, Positive Pyschologist Martin E.P. Seligman explains that “doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.” And he identifies meaning or “belonging to and serving something serving something that you believe is bigger than the self” as a requirement for authentic happiness.
In a January 2015 Psychology Today article titled “Happiness Comes From Giving, Not Buying and Having,” Leeds Beckett University psychology professor Steve Taylor explains that once our basic material needs are met, “wealth only has a negligible effect on well-being. For example, studies have shown that, in general, lottery winners do not become significantly happier than they were before, and that even extremely rich people—such as billionaires—are not significantly happier than others.”
Taylor goes on to explain that though money doesn’t contribute much to happiness after a certain point, giving is a research-proven happiness booster. He describes studies where volunteering produced greater mental health and longevity. And he describes another study that demonstrated that there is “one way in which money actually can bring happiness: if you give away the money you earn.”
That’s right. Giving away your money can make you feel happier than spending more dollars on yourself.
Reason 3: There Are No Limits To How Happy Giving To Others Can Make You Feel
There is a ceiling to how happy earning more money can make you feel. Because the drive to earn more money is finite.
After you hit a certain peak of material success, earning more wealth will not interest you as much as it once did. Because at a certain point, you’re going to realize that earning more wealth won’t make you any happier than you already are. There’s a ceiling to how happy earning more money can make you feel.
But on the other hand, there are no limits to how much genuine happiness giving to others can bring into your life. There are no limits to the number of ways you can create to contribute to the lives of others. And there are no limits to the happiness you will feel by doing so.
Great examples of this are celebrities like Bill Gates (founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Akon (founder of Akon Lighting Africa which is projected to provide solar electricity to six hundred million people in Africa), and Angelina Jolie (world renowned humanitarian) who own more wealth than many of us could ever dream of, but now seem to prioritize helping people over earning more money.
We often see wealthy celebrities like Bill Gates dedicating themselves to philanthropy instead of continuing to build their bank accounts after they reach the top because—at that point—earning more money can’t make them feel any happier than they already are. But giving can.
Because giving isn’t just the right thing to do. It’s a supply of genuine happiness that never runs out.